I have spent quite a bit of time traveling alone, including moving to a foreign country by myself when I was twenty. Traveling solo can be a lot of fun, because you get to make your own schedule and do whatever it is that you want to do on your trip. However, there are some safety considerations you should be aware of as a solo traveler, and especially as a solo female traveler. It’s important to be prepared so you can stay safe on your travels! I’ve traveled safely solo in destinations ranging from France to Guatemala.
This first tip is pretty obvious: Thoroughly research your destination before you go. Research the areas you will be visiting, the area where you’ll be staying, and how the local transportation works. Learn about the local culture and customs, learn some key phrases in the local language, and familiarize yourself with common tourist scams in the area so you can avoid them. Basically, the more you know, the more prepared you will be for your travels, and the less likely you are to encounter any unpleasant surprises or safety issues.
This goes along with researching your destination, but make sure you pack clothes that will allow you to blend in with the locals and not stand out too much. If you are traveling to a country where the women dress very conservatively, you will want to cover up too. Even in less conservative countries in Europe or South America, there are many places where women don’t really wear shorts or tank tops, even during the summer. If you dress that way, prepare for staring and attention. Try to dress in a way that doesn’t scream “tourist” and you should be okay!
If you are walking around with a lost or confused expression on your face, you’re more likely to become a target. Even if you really don’t know where you’re going, walk confidently and with purpose as if you do, until you can find a private place to collect yourself and get your bearings.
Always stay alert and aware of your surroundings. If you’re walking alone, especially at night, don’t listen to music with headphones on or look down at your phone while you walk. If you’re in a crowded place or on public transportation, make sure to stay aware of the people around you and maintain a tight hold on your personal belongings.
You don’t need to be calling/texting/emailing/posting on social media every hour of every day while you travel, but it is important to stay connected with some family or friends back home, just so people know where you are and that you’re safe. Be sure to share your general travel plans with family and loved ones before you leave, and keep them updated periodically as you travel so they know where you are.
I’m a huge fan of walking everywhere when I travel, but I will spend a little extra money on a cab if I’m walking back alone late at night and I don’t feel like it’s a safe area. Same goes with accommodation. Don’t hesitate to spend a little more money on a nicer, centrally-located hotel versus a sketchy hostel or guesthouse that gives you a bad feeling. I once spent over $100 to get back from a very remote area in Guatemala late at night. Yes, it hurt my wallet to spend so much, but you can’t put a price on your safety and it’s worth it to spend a little more to have some peace of mind while you travel!